Middle West’s New Barrel-Rested Vodka

From the July 2014 edition

Middle West Spirits’ love affair with all things barreled just got deeper with the release of OYO Barrel-Finished Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka. Bartenders are crafting cocktails with it. Bottles are flying off liquor store shelves. And to think it was all a fluke.

“You just never know where this stuff is going to come from,” says Middle West co-owner Brady Konya. “This one was just kind of out of left field.”

As Konya tells it, Middle West sales director Josh Daily put some OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka in a 5-gallon barrel and promptly forgot about it—for a year. “We just had some extra product we wouldn’t have filtered and bottled,” he says. “He wound up coming back with this, and we were just blown away.”

True enough, time in a seasoned barrel is quite kind to the vodka, tingeing it with wisps of smokiness and a gentle bite and coaxing big, round floral notes from the honey. It’s lovely enjoyed neat in a snifter or Glencairn glass (meant for scotch), whose shapes focus the vodka’s aromas, but it’s popping up in cocktails, too.

Take a cue from Konya and sub in the barrel-finished vodka for the traditional Cognac in a sidecar, which also calls for Grand Marnier and lemon juice. “My favorite cocktails are the ones that are most uncomplicated,” he says.